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Briefing of AFP East Timor mission refused.



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MEDIA RELEASE

 

The Hon Duncan Kerr MP

Shadow Minister for Justice and Customs

Shadow Minister for the Arts

Federal Member for Denison

 

9 June 1999

 

BRIEFING ON AFP EAST TIMOR MISSION REFUSED

 

In an unprecedented move, Labor has been refused briefings fro m the Howard Government regarding the deployment of the 50 person Australian Federal Police team which is to help monitor the United Nations-organised ballot in to East Timor.

 

“The Howard Government’s refusal to provide Labor with a briefing on the security situation likely to be faced by the AFP contingent raises serious concerns about the safety of our personnel,” the Shadow Minister for Justice and Customs, Duncan Kerr, said today.

 

“Labor first sought a briefing on the prospective AFP deployment from the Howard Government on 11 May. Senator Vanstone refused. The Leader of the Opposition then wrote to the Prime Minister reminding him of the convention that the Opposition be briefed on circumstances involving Australia’s security and the deployment of Australian military or police personnel overseas.

 

“Nearly a month has passed since Labor’s first request for a briefing. Yesterday, Senator Amanda Vanstone’s office advised that, in her opinion, it was still ‘premature’ to brief the Opposition.

 

“This is a disgraceful situation. The facts are that the AFP contingent has been selected, its members have undergone training, and the first group of 12 officers is expected, subject to final orders from the UN, to be ready to leave from this Friday.

 

“There is no doubt that the AFP officers are being sent to perform an inherently dangerous mission. They will be dependent on the Indonesian Police and military to guarantee their safety from the pro-integrationist militias which have already threatened Australian lives. On 4 March, Australia’s Defence Intelligence Organisation warned the Government that the Indonesian military were less than committed to protecting Australians in East Timor.

 

“Labor remains concerned that the planned United Nations police deployment is no real substitute for a fully-fledged UN peacekeeping mission in East Timor. The Howard Government has consistently failed to press Jakarta to accept such a mission to guarantee a free and fair ballot on 8 August.

 

“Without reassurances that the AFP’s training, operational protocols and contingency planning for emergency scenarios are adequate, the Opposition is unable to endorse their departure for East Timor. We have been kept in the dark.

 

“This is deeply regretted because Australian police and military personnel involved in United Nations operations deserve bipartisan support.

 

“Prime Minister Howard and Justice Minister Vanstone must understand if any harm comes to the AFP contingent, they alone are responsible,” Mr Kerr said.

 

Contact: Becher Townshend 0418 370 661

 

 

 

dd  1999-06-10  10:36